Reviews

'Horrible Bosses 2' Goes for the Laughs, Not the Anger

The sequel skips the original’s workers' fury and lets its comedy all-star trio play to their strengths, with mixed results.


Horrible Bosses 2

Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey
Rated: R
Studio: New Line Cinema
Year: 2014
UK Release Date: 2014-11-28 (General release)
US Release Date: 2014-11-26 (General release)
Website
Trailer

Although Horrible Bosses was no comedic masterpiece, it had its moments. Most revolved around its put upon worker drones’ spluttering frustration at how freely their sadistic superiors abused authority. The movie was efficient: plans were hatched, plans went awry, and in the end our plucky protagonists scraped through to survive like others before them. We felt they were in the right because their anger was familiar and because they offered a wish-fulfillment revenge fantasy against very bad bosses.

By contrast, the sequel scraps any plot points that might derive from its title. Tired of working for other people, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudekis), and Dale (Charlie Day) have now gone into business for themselves, marketing a SkyMall-esque contraption known as the Shower Buddy. Businessman Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) expresses interest in it for his catalog, and despite having no manufacturing experience, the three start their own factory. No surprise, they soon learn that Bert isn’t playing fair: they're a half million dollars in hock and their newborn company is dead on the side of the road.

Meanwhile, Bert and his preening son Rex (Chris Pine) gloat over their scam and plan to steal the Shower Buddy like a proper pair of new millennium capitalists. Bert even gets off a couple lines that sound like they could have come from Thomas Piketty’s Capital. Mocking the heroes’ professed belief in hard work and ingenuity, he scoffs, “The only thing that creates wealth is wealth.” Translation: iIt’s a rigged game, suckers.

But the movie's not very interested in theories of modern capitalism. Instead, it assembles a loose series of bits, many at least partially improvised and only one or two suggesting a plot that includes a failed kidnapping and ransom. But this abandonment of conventional structure isn't necessarily a bad thing. The film might be understood as crafting Nick, Dale, and Kurt out of the stars’ already well honed personae, then putting them together to see what might happen. Bateman plays another of his patented deadpan worriers, mouth set in a perma-frown while he watches Kurt and Dale spray kerosene and toss lit matches everywhere they can. For brief moments, Nick seems almost to look ahead, trying to plot a course out of the status quo: “Ourselves is a dumpster fire,” he observes.

Per formula, the inexorable troublemakers played by Sudeikis and Day resist change. Sudeikis’ style resembles that of a charming carnival huckster, while Day’s is that of a basement-dwelling borderline psychopath (a straight redo of his character from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Everything about Dale and Kurt plotting together screams, "Bad Idea".

And yet the three dudes appear to have a good time of it. Again and again, the characters proclaim ever grander variations on their revenge plot even as they engage in noisy squabbles. Also repeatedly, the actors deliver to expectations, Bateman’s agonized sighs set against Sudeikis and Day’s motor-mouthing, a combination producing some of the most reliable and low-wattage screen comedy since Vince Vaughn decided to stop making funny movies. Director Sean Anders has enough confidence in his cast’s abilities to leave them alone without the desperate tinkering and stunt casting that afflicts so many comedy sequels (read: no Kevin Hart cameo).

In fact, problems arise just about anytime another character comes on the scene. Brief appearances by Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx do what they're supposed to do, that is, highlight the trio’s shortcomings as criminals, not to mention competent adults (as American film comedies still draw inspiration from The Hangover's arrested adolescents). Pine does his best to play along with Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day, but he dials up the volume when underplaying is key to the three original players' success. Jennifer Anniston could never be accused of underplaying nymphomaniac dentist Dr. Harris. Returning from the first film, here again, the character makes little sense. “You guys got a lot of stuff sticking out and I’ve got a lot of holes,” she announces.

Such painful moments aside, Horrible Bosses 2 does provide for some laughs, a rarity for any comedy sequel, but they’re arbitrary. The movie may as well have been called Bateman-Sudeikis-Day Funny Movie, With Guest Stars and Occasional Car Chase.

5


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.